|By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Jackson vs Lansing Eastern football
The growing pains are getting more severe each week for the Jackson High School football team.
D’ontae Hopson returned a kickoff a school record 99 yards for a touchdown for the Vikings, but it was no cure for an offense that looked young and befuddled in a 33-6 home loss to Lansing Eastern on Friday.
The Quakers stopped an eight-game skid against Jackson and improved to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue Division, while the Vikings fell to 0-3 and 0-2.
The Vikings mustered just 45 yards of total offense and two first downs, leaving their defense on the field for much of the game.
Jackson coach Jack Fairly said it’s tough to swallow being 0-3 for the first time since 2005, but there’s plenty of time for self-reflection and evaluation.
“It’s just a matter of continually trying to get better. We need to generate some offense – we play a lot of defense out there,” he said. “Normally we’re the team that runs 75 plays against you, so the shoe’s on the other foot as they say and you work on the little things to get better.
“As a coach you’re trying to teach the boys lessons about life and getting back up and working hard.”
Jackson ran 24 plays, while Lansing Eastern ran 55.
Much of the Quakers’ success was thanks to quarterback Herbert Alford, who ran for 57 yards and a score, while keeping the Vikings honest with some option looks.
Lansing Eastern coach Richard Woods said it’s easy to put the ball in Alford’s hands because he’s a third-year varsity player who “makes most of the right decisions,” — enough right decisions Friday to allow his team to celebrate by singing their fight song by night’s end.
“It’s been a long time. I’ve never beaten these guys as a head coach, so it’s sweet redemption,” Woods said. “They’ve beat us the last two years by (two) points and four points, so I’m just glad the guys came in focused and played better than we did last week (in a 21-7 loss to Okemos).”
Tyler Allen totaled 110 yards and three touchdown runs on 19 carries for Lansing Eastern, while Nate Hall added 75 yards and a score.
The Vikings, on the other hand, had 45 yards rushing on 23 attempts, something Fairly chalked up to “poor drive blocking” and inexperience.
The passing game fared no better. Jackson didn’t complete a pass, and Tyler Oliver and Jaylen McDonald both threw interceptions.
It got to the point Friday where every sign of hope for Jackson seemed to be dashed by an error. In the first half Joe Heyward intercepted an Alford pass and took off toward the endzone, only to be stripped of the ball around the 10-yard line; and following Hopson’s enthralling kick return, the Quakers squibbed the following kickoff, which bounced off a Vikings player rihgt into the lap of Lansing Eastern.
One bright spot for Jackson was defensive end Chris Simpson, who finished with 14 tackles and two sacks.
“I challenged each guy to pick one part of their game to work on and get better at each week,” Fairly said. “It might not add up to a win, but (I hope) they can put their head on the pillow after next week and know they played a better football game.”